The interactive effects of endotoxin with prenatal glucocorticoids on short-term lung function in sheep

John P. Newnham, Timothy J. Moss, James F. Padbury, Karen E. Willet, Machiko Ikegami, M. Gore Ervin, Peter Sly, Alan Jobe

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OBJECTIVE: Previously we have shown that neonatal lung function in sheep after preterm birth is profoundly enhanced by intra-amniotic injection of endotoxin, with a magnitude at least equal to that induced by maternal betamethasone administration. This study investigated the effects of betamethasone on lung maturation and growth in the presence of inflammation by treating sheep with both maternal intramuscular betamethasone and intra-amniotic endotoxin injections. STUDY DESIGN: Time-mated pregnant ewes at 118 days' gestation were allocated at random to receive maternal intramuscular or intra-amniotic saline solution injection (n = 10), maternal intramuscular betamethasone injection (0.5 mg/kg; n = 7), intra-amniotic endotoxin injection (20 mg Escherichia coli B055;B5; n = 11) by ultrasonographic guidance, or both betamethasone and endotoxin injections (n = 7). The lambs were delivered abdominally at 125 days' gestation (term is 150 days' gestation), and the neonates were ventilated for 40 minutes before postmortem examination. RESULTS: Combined treatment with betamethasone and endotoxin resulted in significantly greater improvements in neonatal lung function than occurred after treatment with either agent alone, and this effect was not accompanied by a further increase in surfactant levels. The reduction in birth weight that is seen after maternal betamethasone treatment was not seen when this treatment was combined with endotoxin. Endotoxin treatment resulted in inflammatory responses in cord blood and alveolar wash, and these responses were not inhibited by betamethasone treatment. There were no pregnancy losses. CONCLUSION: Both intra-amniotic endotoxin injection and maternal intramuscular betamethasone injection promoted fetal lung maturation. When these treatments were combined, there were additive effects on short-term postnatal lung function but not on surfactant levels. Endotoxin negated the growth restriction in sheep caused by maternal betamethasone treatment. These findings provide evidence that the lung maturation induced by glucocorticoids and that induced by endotoxin are mediated by different mechanisms.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)190-197
Number of pages8
JournalAmerican Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2001
Externally publishedYes


  • Endotoxin
  • Fetal growth
  • Fetal inflammation
  • Fetal lung maturation
  • Glucocorticoids
  • Sheep

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